SALT LAKE CITY (Oct. 11, 2023) — Tonight, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox delivered the following address at the “Utah Stands With Israel” rally organized by Chabad Lubavitch of Utah and held at the Utah State Capitol:
“Last year I had a remarkable opportunity to lead a trade delegation to Israel. While there we met with extraordinary people. Innovators who taught us how to truly make a desert blossom like a rose while only using a fraction of the water that we use in Utah. I met with government officials dedicated to the defense of this small and vulnerable nation. I met with Israel’s President and had a remarkable conversation with then-candidate Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I toured holy places and prayed at the Western Wall. I felt a powerful kinship and a brotherhood with these wonderful people in this special place.
“But of all the places I visited, Yad Vashem — Israel’s holocaust memorial — where I saw the names and stories of too many people who were killed in an ethnic cleansing that haunts humankind to this day, impacted me the most. I watched as the names and pictures of children sent to gas chambers seared my soul.
“I laid a wreath on behalf of Utahns to honor those lost and as a symbol of our commitment to never allow it to happen again. And I said a prayer of gratitude that our world had changed for the better.
“Like all of you, I was horrified when I learned of the depraved terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas against innocent women and children and men. The largest massacre of Jews since the holocaust. As the videos and pictures came through, we all saw unspeakable horrors.
“And yet, we must speak them or risk repeating history again.
“Women murdered and their bodies dragged through the streets. Dancers celebrating peace gunned down execution style. Families kidnapped and tortured. Human beings burned alive. Babies beheaded.
“Evil exists. Hamas is evil. We must say it. And we must defeat it.
“If your first instinct is to explain it away, or nuance it, or justify it or — heaven forbid – celebrate it, I beg you to think again.
“The lack of humanity and senseless violence in Israel claimed one of Utah’s own, Lotan Amir. To his family, friends and loved ones: Please know that Abby and I mourn with you and pray that you may find comfort in Lotan’s memory during the long and difficult days ahead. Please join me in a moment of silence.
“Tonight we gather in solidarity and support for the people of Israel as they defend their right to exist free from those who would destroy them from the face of the earth.
“We also gather in support of our Jewish community here in Utah. Many are surprised to learn that Utah was the second state in America to have a Jewish governor, our fourth governor in 1917, Simon Bamberger. As I spoke yesterday with the Israeli consul general and told him we were allies, he corrected me: “We are not allies, we are family,” he said.
“He was right.
“To our Jewish friends, I pray that you feel our love tonight and always. “Jewtah,” as my friend affectionately calls our state, cares deeply about you and your safety. We are here to protect you and help you heal.
“Utah is also a place that holds the values of peace close to our hearts. As Lt. Gov. Henderson stated yesterday, “If Hamas stops fighting, there will be peace. If Israel stops fighting, there will be no Israel.”
“But peace is possible. You see, we didn’t just travel to Israel. We also traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We saw what true peace between Arab and Jew really looks like. We were there for the marriage of a prominent Rabbi. Over 1,000 people attended the wedding evenly split between Muslims and Jews. They celebrated together and danced together. It was a glorious sight, a sight many in the UAE never thought they would see in their lifetimes.
“And so tonight we knit our hearts together in a prayer for peace.
“Now a word to those who disagree with my words this evening.
“We are so blessed to live in a country with a Constitution that protects free speech. There may be those who disagree with me and wish to protest in opposition of Israel or in support of Hamas.
“While I disagree vehemently, I will protect your right to peacefully protest. But let me be clear, the Constitution only protects peaceful protests. Any violence toward our Jewish friends or property vandalism will be met with swift justice and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“We will protect law and order in this state.
“As a show of solidarity and support, we will be lighting up Utah’s State Capitol in blue and white lights on Sunday night. I can’t think of anyone better to switch on these lights than Ambassador John Price.
“Ambassador Price was born to a Jewish family in Germany, experienced Krstallnacht as a child and fled with his family in 1939. We honor Ambassador Price as a Holocaust survivor, a diplomat and a generous philanthropist who has given so much to the state of Utah and her people. Please join Ambassador Price Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. here at the Capitol as he turns on the lights.
“Tonight and always, Utah stands with Israel and we pray for peace.”